Concerned about distancing at playgrounds, Bridgwater residents tape off city play structures

By | April 7, 2020

Residents of one Winnipeg neighbourhood have wrapped playground equipment in big strips of yellow caution tape, concerned that signs put up by the city might not be enough to keep children off the play structures.

Andrea Chow, who monitors the social media pages for the Bridgwater Trails Neighbourhood Association, says she started to see a trend on Facebook and Instagram last week.

“Lots of people were complaining they were seeing large groups of children on the play structures and had concerns about the lack of social distancing.”

The city closed its play structures and picnic facilities on March 27, but said it would leave parks open as long as people follow physical distancing guidelines.

Chow says the city put up signs in some parks and none in others. She contacted Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes about making sure residents got the message.

“You can wait for someone else to do it, or you can go to Lowe’s and buy some tape and take care of it yourself,” Chow told CBC News, standing in front a Bridgwater Forest park play structure wrapped in the bright yellow tape.

‘Lots of people were complaining they were seeing large groups of children on the play structures,’ says Andrea Chow. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Lukes said she herself is getting up early to wrap swings and slides in other parks.

“Everyone responds to different levels of enforcement. We have little signs somewhere on the site. But I just thought big yellow caution ‘fence it off’ tape helps. And it does help,” Lukes said at another small park nearby.

Signs have been placed at play structures and picnic shelters around Winnipeg, the city said in a statement, adding  “everyone has a role to play in slowing COVID-19’s spread.”

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Lukes says keeping kids off the equipment is critical in that effort.

“I have triplets. When they were little … they are germy little things, right? So I just think it’s really important. It’s something that I have the ability to do.” 

Chow says part of the challenge is getting people to understand how important it is to keep a proper physical distance —both for themselves and their children.

“Part of the problem is that we don’t have any enforcement available to us right now. I believe that would [have to] come from the province, to have some teeth to enforce some of the rules,” said Chow.

“I’m not quite sure who would do the enforcing. So right now it’s about making people aware.”

Premier Brian Pallister hinted on Monday that more enforcement of physical distancing rules may be coming from the province.

For now, Lukes says playground signage needs to be as big and bold as possible, but she’s reluctant to pin blame on the city for not getting signs up in every park immediately.

“Public works is busy. They’ve got a flood on the go. You know, we have a whole COVID-19 thing,” she said.

Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes says she is on tape patrol throughout her ward. (Tyson Koschik/CBC )

No matter what measures the city uses to keep the equipment off-limits during the health emergency, Chow and Lukes say they intend to keep the tape up in their neighbourhoods. 

Chow says the message is especially important as the days warm up.

“This is a long weekend coming up,  so it should be a real test for the city.”

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